In letters to the editor this week: the parlous state of our Parliament, adding reason to the ‘capitalism’ conversation, and our flawed universities.
Michael McKinley’s article this week describing the current federal government as a “kakistocracy” was greeted with applause by readers, as was Adam Lucas and Alessandro Pelizzon’s examination of Australian universities’ governance. We also had letters responding to Michael Keating’s explanation of capitalism for Scott Morrison, and Ian Hunter and Don Jones’ call for better regulation of lobbyists.
An incompetent government — Michael McKinley
Michael McKinley encapsulates the problems Australia has with our federal Parliament. With possibly the most inept and narcissistic prime minister in our history, aided and abetted by ministers who seem to lack any real desire or competence in their ministries it is hardly surprising our parliament is in a parlous state. The political agenda for the past three years has been one of photo opportunities and word grabs for the next day’s press, actual achievement is not in the frame. No long term vision or planning is occurring. Even the few things this government promised at the last election, for example a federal integrity commission, have not materialised. Corruption and poor behaviour are endemic. It is little wonder that the public hold our parliamentarians in disgust and contempt. It is nearly impossible to think of a single positive achievement by the Morrison government in the past three years. Frankly the term kakistocracy is inadequate in describing this federal government. I believe the Dunning-Kruger effect better describes this government. It is: “A cognitive bias where people of little expertise or ability think they have superior expertise or ability. This overestimation occurs as a result of the fact that they don’t have enough knowledge to know that they don’t have the necessary expertise or abilities.” — Ross Hudson, Mount Martha, Victoria
In his entertaining article, Michael McKinley gives us the perfect word to describe the Morrison government. It’s not just the definition of kakistocracy, “a government by the least suitable or competent, or even the worst, citizens of a state”, it’s also its suggestive properties, sounding like cactus, as in dead, and khaki, a pooey colour. But living under a kakistocracy is no laughing matter especially in a time of the dual crises, climate change and the pandemic. In regard to climate change, McKinley’s Neils Bohr quote, “Anyone who isn’t fundamentally disturbed by what is taking place doesn’t understand it” applies to nearly everyone in the Coalition. But why do we keep electing such people? The Dunning-Kruger effect reveals that less-intelligent people are usually incredibly confident, and people prefer their politicians to be confident. But lack of integrity is perhaps even more dangerous. A politician who refuses to accept climate science because doing so will bite the hand that feeds, is the pits. Let’s hope that, in the new year, thinking Australians elect a critical mass of intelligent and honest independents to kick the kakistocracy out once and for all. — Ray Peck, Hawthorn, Victoria
The problem with our universities — Adam Lucas and Alessandro Pelizzon
An excellent appraisal and explanation of everything that is so wrong with the tertiary education system in Australia. Further to this indictment of ideology subsuming higher education values into a severe business ethos, is the question: “What will Labor do to redeem itself and, finally, do something to right the injustice of this travesty of learning?” The disgraceful and vicious attack on universities by Morrison’s government will continue if he wins the upcoming federal election, to the dismay of all those who value higher learning and research. It’s about time academic staff in tertiary institutions got a a bit of respect and, dare one say, support. Philistines in the Coalition won’t be the ones to proffer this, of course. Will Labor? — Robert Harwood, West Hobart, Tasmania
Capitalism 101 for Scott Morrison — Michael Keating
Michael Keating brings sweet reason to the “capitalism” debate except for one important issue. Former US Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke assumed wrongly that banks would invest usefully with federally provided “loanable funds” — an idea scotched long ago by Joseph Schumpeter. In Australia, despite the banking royal commission’s urgent proposals, the government ignored regulations to control banks that are licenced to create money. Given capitalist banks do create money on demand for loans and allocate this in the economy, there is no need for banks to have “loanable funds”. The Reserve Bank of Australia’s idea that banks must direct some of their loans to job-creating, socially useful ventures ended years ago: the Coalition swears on removing “red tape”. We now see the appalling situation of Buy Now Pay Later. With wage suppression and harsh cutbacks, many people have little choice but to borrow to survive, which feudal days banned as usury. Bankers know perfectly well they create and destroy money, when loans are repaid, but today with “light touch” for asset speculation (Bitcoin too) and usury. It’s easier for bankers than assessing loan applications for new ventures with potentially solid returns. — Jocelyn Pixley, Paddington, NSW
Lobbyists’ vested interests – Ian Hunter and Don Jones
Lobbyists should be banned from all parliament houses across Australia and made to carry out their lobbying elsewhere. The lobbyist register is inadequate: the full name of all lobbyists, unless given exemption, should be listed. It should be mandatory to promptly, publicly and accurately disclose their discussions with ministers, shadow minister and senior public servants. No Parliamentarian senior or public servant should work with a vested interest group they been associated with for five years after retirement or resignation. The problem with vested interests and their corruption of public debate must be addressed to help restore faith in our public institutions and assist in sound public policies. — Bruce Holmes, Portarlington, Victoria